Age can be relative with the help of an all-beef patty

image As I think I’ve mentioned, I’m turning 48 this year. The good news is I have a friend who just turned 60. So, relative to him I am a young man — something I will keep reminding him of until that sad day when, unexpectedly, he knocks out my front teeth with his walker. My point is, when it comes to age, what seems relative can quickly change.

Yesterday, for example, I was eating at a fast-food place when I noticed a pair of college-aged girls taking glances at me from another table. This has happened before, which is why I instinctively went through a series of mental checkpoints drawn from previous experience:

1) Is there condiment blowback in my hair, on my chin or around my nostril(s)?
2) What am I wearing today, and is there any part I forgot to snap closed, zip up or buckle down?
3) Did I unknowingly allow any part of my body’s internal gastro intestinal process to be heard externally?
4) Am I slouching, hunched or otherwise postured in a manner that makes it appear I’m protecting my $3.99 Value Meal, possibly to the death?

And last,

5) Is there someone much younger and better-looking sitting directly behind me?

After determining none of these factors was responsible for the attention I was getting from the two co-eds, I continued my meal feeling like I was back in my late 20s, back when metabolism kept things like a small order of fries and an 8-ounce shake from turning into an extra chin roughly the size of a cow udder; back when “harmless flirtation” meant something other than spending an hour on roller skates without breaking a hip.

As I sat there eating, the two co-eds got up from their table and approached me, smiling nervously.

This was something I hadn’t anticipated.

I know this because my throat, which had been in mid-swallow, suddenly forgot where my esophagus was. I took a sip of soda thinking it would jump-start the swallowing process. Instead, the soda backed up in my throat before exiting through my nasal cavity — which, thankfully, was too small to accommodate my all-beef patty. Catching a glance at my reflection in the napkin dispenser, I saw what looked like a giant carp hacking up a fistful of Powerbait onto a plastic tray. Relatively speaking, I felt 15 again, back when nerves routinely seized my stomach into a walnut whenever I was around Sarah Getlost.

“Excuse me, are you OK?”

I looked up to see both girls standing at my table. “Yes,” I wheezed, then patted my chest. “Something went down the wrong pipe. I think it might have been my esophagus.”

After some nervous laughter, one of the girls said, “I’m sure you saw us looking at you. We didn’t want you to think we were stalkers or something.”

I nodded and took a sip of soda, trying to act cool; praying it wouldn’t come out my nose.

“It’s just that, from over there, you looked exactly like my Dad,” she explained, “and I’m not supposed to be here. If he knew I skipped classes today for a concert he’d kill me.”

And just like that, I was in my mid-50s, racing to catch up with my friend and his walker.

As they started to leave, her friend turned back to me and said, “Just so you know, I told her you looked too young to be her Dad.”

In that moment, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier being 47.

Well — relatively speaking, anyway.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

63 thoughts on “Age can be relative with the help of an all-beef patty”

  1. Hilarious as usual, O’ 47-yr-old Hacking Carp. It’s good that a generation of texters can actually make sentences with their mouths, so that is a good sign for society. But what a roller-coaster of emotion they put you through: throwing you into a Cocoon movie and then suddenly reeling you back with a semi-compliment. Obviously, her dad must have good hair and rugged good looks. 🙂

    1. Ha! Thanks, Kerbey 😉 It’s hard to look rugged while wiping Arby’s Horsey Sauce off your thigh (although there’s probably a fetish for that). But having good hair — or any hair, really — gives me a slight distinction over most men my age…

  2. So you had to take the gut-check (“you look like my dad”) with the compliment (“you don’t look old enough to be her dad”). I’d still call that a win!

    1. Hey, maybe we should start a support group? We can all meet at Arby’s and see if we draw awkward stares that could be mistaken for flirtatious looks? 😉

  3. So blooming cute this post and please do start a support group, its a global issue for 40 + humans 🙂

  4. Your list of possible reasons two girls were staring made me laugh. Anytime I have my students’ undivided attention when I’m lecturing, I immediately start thinking, “Do I have tissue hanging from my nose?” 😉

  5. Ahhh. Don’t feel bad….bet they were lying to you…I bet they both had some kind of fixation on you and just wanted to see you up close. Great post though…very amusing!

  6. Ya done good Ned – your comportment upheld the pride of all us old guys. I was standing at the cash of a store the other day and I dropped a dime (money). A young lady, about the age you described, quickly bent over, picked it up and passed it back to me with a : “There you are sir” First time that has ever happened and I felt old Ned. It used to be my job (as a man) to be chilvarous – now the younguns are doing it to me out of pity. Sigh. I like your mental checkpoints Ned; I have to start using them. *soft sobbing here*

      1. Hahaha! I hadn’t even thought of that Ned. What would be the correct etiquette around that? Is a dime too little? Or should i use a quarter? We have $1 and $2 coins here too (loonies and twoonies). They seem a bit too large in case she doesn’t give the money back. (if she ran with my loonie, I’d never catch her). Perhaps I could drop say, three or four dimes and/or nickels – enough that I can watch as she picks each one up, but not enough for her to take off with my money. Hmm, your post always gives me food for thought Ned. *bows in honor*

        1. I heard that some sneaky pick up artists drop a faked bank deposit receipt showing their bank balance as few hundred thousands or a few millions.

  7. Lost my hair when I was young. After the first child I quite smoking. After the second child I quit drinking. After the third child I quit you know what. Now sixty eight I do not remember all three that I quit. My biggest event is pushing away from the table and getting up from the toilet. Is life grand?
    P.S. Before you feel sorry for me, the above was a joke to tickle your funny bone. Age is what you make of it.

  8. … anyone under the age of 22 views anyone over the age of 30 and quite aged and decrepit. The chasm between 30 and 60 is identical when discussing someone ‘old’, after which you switch to “ancient”. So technically speaking, she may have thought you were mid 30’s tops, If she used the “new math” formula and remembered some rudimentary biology lessons about reproductive ages. so it may have been a compliment. I would be more concerned with the fact that you obviously have a doppleganger in the same town your wife has access to and warn her that she should verify your identity before engaging in any marital type relations to avoid any potential awkward situations with a ruggedly handsome stranger, who is the father of the girl who complimented you at Arby’s.

    1. Hahaha! I wish you had been my math teacher; I much prefer your explanations for complicated equations. And as for my potential doppelgänger, I would hope at least one physical attribute would immediately distinguish me from a poser…

  9. My dad once told me: “Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.” Guess one day you’re 15 and have a thing for Sarah Getlost, and the next day you’re nearly 50 with a few extra chins to show for it;)
    Hiliarious post, as usual!

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